Nicklaus has his right hand outstretched, what do you do?

Fatiha Betscher

Patrick Cantlay shakes hands with Jack Nicklaus after winning The Memorial (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

You’ve just sunk the winning putt to capture the Memorial, one of the PGA Tour’s blue ribbon events.

Tournament host, Jack Nicklaus is walking up to you with his right-hand outstretched.

What do you do in these Covid-19 ‘social distancing’ times? Do you ignore the hand of the world’s greatest-ever golfer? Do you extend your elbow and hope the golfer known as the ‘Golden Bear’ will likewise respond?


One thing is for certain and that is Nicklaus has insisted he does not intend to comply with any Ohio State ‘social distancing’ ruling that has also now seen the PGA Tour continue to ban spectators from attending Tour events to the end of the 2019/20 season.

Nicklaus was asked what he would do late on Sunday afternoon, something he has now done at the back of the 72nd green for 45-straight years.

“I’m going to shake their hand. I’m going to walk right out there and shake their hand,” he said.

“If they don’t want to shake my hand, that’s fine, I’ll give them a fist bump or an elbow bump, but I’m not going to give them Covid-19… I wouldn’t put anybody in that position. I wouldn’t do that, and if I was in any danger of doing that, I wouldn’t shake their hands.

“And incidentally, I like shaking their hand, too. I think that’s a great tradition, but it was as much fun for me as I hope it is for them.”

Nicklaus had planned to shake the hand of the winner of last Sunday’s Workday Charity Open but the early start to the final round meant he did not arrive in time from his Florida home.

The 18-time Major champ also had planned to have fans, albeit a limited number, making the Memorial the first tournament since the PGA Tour started up again in June to do so. But a week ago Monday officials reversed course in a joint decision with the tour. In the end, Nicklaus said the players balked at the idea of having fans when coronavirus cases are rising in Ohio, as it is in other states. Thankfully, Nicklaus understood their concerns.

“I think it was the players’ choice and the tour’s choice at this point to say, we would prefer not to have fans,” he said.

“I think that the tour probably made the right decision as it relates to the Memorial tournament. Maybe we are a little too early for the galleries. We didn’t have a problem with it.

“My goal putting on the golf tournament is to bring major championship-type golf back to Columbus, Ohio, where I grew up. That’s why this whole event is being played. It’s not being played for the players, it’s being played for Central Ohio.”

However, Nicklaus added if players were unwilling to enter because of risk of exposure to the virus from spectators, the tournament and its charitable cause certainly could have been hampered.

“You can’t have a dance without the dancing girls, and so … I can understand where some might be very hesitant,” Nicklaus said. “I think we’re probably doing the right thing right now, and we’re going to have a good tournament either way.”


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